DRDO’s Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research at Nainital has developed capsules out of fungus, which is grown on the insects at high altitude of the Himalayas. View more at #Hindustan360.
These drugs are used for curing several diseases. Speaking to this newspaper, Dr P.S. Negi, a scientist of the institute, said, “This fungus is grown at 11,000 feet altitude in the Himalayas in Nepal, Tibet and India. Locally called as Yarsh Gamboo or Kira Ghas, it is a parasite on lepidopteron insect larvae. It is used for curing TB, bronchitis, asthama, hepatitis and other ailments. It contains cordycepin, which has aphrodisiac value too.”
Incidentally, Chinese soldiers often used to cross over to India for this fungus, which they call ‘love flower’ as it is known for its performance enhancing properties and as aphrodisiac. A kilogram of fungus costs around Rs 8 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. “Our scientists have grown it in the lab and developed the performance enhancing nutraceuticals from cordyceps sinensis and ganoderma lucidum, high medicinal value mushrooms,” said Dr Negi.
The mushroom when eaten strengthens the immune system and promote overall vitality and longevity. The fungus had caught the attention of the world in 1993, when Chinese women athletes, who have been using it, shattered nine world records in outdoor track field championship in Germany. However, it took several years for DRDO arm to cultivate in the lab.
Antibiotics from Fungi
In 1941, penicillin from the fungus Penicillium chrysogenum was first used successfully to treat an infection caused by a bacterium. Use of penicilin revolutionised the treatment of pathogenic disease. Many formally fatal diseases caused by bacteria became treatable, and new forms of medical intervention were possible.
The only broadly useful antifungal agent from fungi is griseofulvin. The original source was Penicillium griseofulvin. Griseofulvin is fungistatic, rather than fungicidal. It is used for the treatment of dermatophytes, as it accumulates in the hair and skin following topical application.
The role of fungi was established early in history. Yeasts have been used in the making of bread and alcohol since the beginning of civilisation. In modern times, the discovery of penicillin marked the beginning of a new approach to microbial diseases in human health. More recent approaches include the application of hydrophobins to surfaces leading to biocompatibility of implants, and to emulsion formation improving drug delivery. The established importance of fungi is being expanding way beyond their capacity to transform and protect.
Applications of Fungi
Medicinal fungi are those fungi which produce medically significant metabolites or can be induced to produce such metabolites using biotechnology. The range of medically active compounds that have been identified include antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, cholesterol inhibitors, psychotropic drugs, immunosuppressants and even fungicides. Although initial discoveries centred on simple moulds of the type that cause spoilage of food, later work identified useful compounds across a wide range of fungi.
Antibacterial agents (antibiotics)
Cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors
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